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China Open 2017: Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy qualify for main draw

They were the only Indians in action on Day 1 of the 2017 China Open.

ashwini ponnappa
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa continue to excel

The Indian contingent got off to a good start at the $700, 000 Tahoe China Open with the mixed doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy winning two rounds of qualification to grab a main draw berth at the season’s final Superseries Premier event in Fuzhou, China on Tuesday.

Ponnappa and Rankireddy, currently placed at 87th in the world rankings, took 27 minutes to stave off the challenge of the Chinese Taipei duo of Lee Jhe-Huei and Wu Ti Jung in the first game and then ran away in the second to register a 24-22, 21-7 win in the first round of qualification.

The final round of qualification was a tougher job for the Indians. They battled hard for 1 hour 4 minutes and saved a couple of match points before they could upset the fourth seeds Niclas Nohr and Sara Thygesen, 21-16, 19-21, 22-20.

In a topsy-turvy decider with lots of momentum shifts, the Indians won five points in a row to jump to 13-11 from 8-11. After the score got levelled at 18-18, Ponnappa and Rankireddy faced match points at 18-20.

The two then put on a stunning show of resilience to save both of them and won the next two points as well to snatch the victory. Ponnappa and Rankireddy now face the French Open semi-finalists Mathias Christiansen and Christinna Pedersen in the first round of the main draw.

Good run of form from Ponnnappa and Rankireddy

Rankireddy and Ponnappa are the only Indian pair in mixed doubles at the China Open following the withdrawal of the India No. 1 duo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy. Chopra suffered a leg injury while playing the final of the Senior National Championships last week against Rankireddy and Ponnappa which forced him to pull out of the Fuzhou event.

The latter, who won the Nationals title, have been having a good run of form ever since they decided to have a regular partnership post the World Championships. They have played four tournaments since then with their best result coming at the Dutch Open Grand Prix where they reached the semi-finals.

The main draw action at the China Open begins on Wednesday. The Indian challenge will be spearheaded by the defending champion PV Sindhu, former champion Saina Nehwal and Nationals winner HS Prannoy.

Also read: China Open 2017: Six top Indian shuttlers pull out

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